I tumbled out of bed, donning my favorite fuzzy bathrobe and commenced my morning routine. I couldn’t wait to wrap my hands around a steaming mug of maple pecan decaf with a splash of cream. Hopefully, it would snap the sleepy out of my brain.
I glanced down at my phone next to the coffee maker in the kitchen where I’d plugged it in the night before. I’d begun banishing my phone from the bedroom so it couldn’t tempt me to tap, swipe and scroll instead of getting to sleep at a decent hour.
About a dozen or more texts, social media messages and email notifications began their usual morning dance, gliding down from the top of my screen. Someone needed an address. Another wanted an answer. Five social media friends asked for my butternut squash soup recipe I’d posted about the night before. An email asked for recommendations of parenting resources. This montage of messages screaming at me through the screen threatened to ruin my day before it had barely even started making me want to scream as well.
My frustrated feelings showcased the ongoing love-hate relationship I have with my phone screen.
My phone can contain my calendar, available for viewing with just a tap. LOVE!
My phone can deliver messages from people who want me to help them with some dilemma and help them right now! HATE!
My phone can flood my feed with darling pictures of my goddaughter, a seven-year-old Ethiopian princess. LOVE!
My phone houses my social media accounts where complete strangers can give me unsolicited criticism on everything from a parenting decision to my latest hairstyle. HATE!
My phone keeps me connected with high school classmates, telling me if they’ve suffered a sadness, or experienced a joy. LOVE!
My phone can crowd my time with tasks others dream up for me without any input from me. HATE!
You get the digital picture, right?
Ephesians 5:15–17 urges us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” To help us extrapolate the instructions God is giving us about managing our time, let’s look at the original Greek meaning of a few keywords and phrases.
The Greek word for walk is peripateó. More than placing one foot in front of the other, it literally means, “to conduct your life properly.” And how are we to walk? Carefully. The deeper Greek meaning of this word is “accurately, diligently, and circumspectly.” That final word isn’t commonly used. It means, “to fully investigate all circumstances and possible outcomes.”
We are also instructed to make the best use of our time. This Greek phrase conveys the concept of redeeming from loss by making the most of the present opportunity. This sounds as if we are to be pro-active and intentional in filling our time. If we aren’t? Well, there are dozens of others out there waiting to fill it for us!
All the requests we see on our screens are not necessarily our tasks to do. It is not unloving to put some boundaries in place if—through prayer and seeking the Lord—we sense that He is calling us to. We may need to disable private messaging. Or put an away response on our email account. When we adopt such boundaries, there’s no doubt it will upset some people. However, we protect our mental health by monitoring our capacity, knowing that if God is truly calling us to say yes to a request, He will convict us of that, not guilt us into it.
Let’s take our days to the Lord in prayer, asking him to help us choose prudently when presented with the many tasks—and asks—that float our way. He will enable us to spend our time in a way that honors Him as He teaches us what it means to walk wisely.
Need more help to avoid falling into the people-pleasing trap? Check out Karen’s newest book, When Making Others Happy Is Making You Miserable: How to Break the Pattern of People-Pleasing and Confidently Live Your Life.